The app is being developed by IHC and online gaming company InGame to make handling money easier for young people with disabilities who want to be independent.
“It’s a character-based game, so you choose your avatar – what you’re going to look like in the game,” says Phil Clarke, IHC Head of Library and Information Resourcing. “The background changes as you make decisions in the game and move around your flat and out to the gym or the movie theatre. As you move through the day there are various choices that have to be made.”
Phil says other characters or situations crop up that challenge what players plan to do and how they plan to spend their money.
Another key aspect of the game is shopping, particularly grocery shopping. Players are asked to decide what they’re going to eat.
Phil says each purchase has a consequence and players can see their available money dropping as they spend. But the consequences are not just monetary. The game has two bars for measuring progress – money and wellbeing. Players can go at their own pace and repeat stages, and a voiceover is available for people who can’t read the screen.
Phil says the idea of a resource to help young disabled people handle money was first discussed two years ago with Merrill and John Holdsworth. The Holdsworth Trust is a longstanding supporter of the IHC Library.
“We wanted to do something with teens with intellectual disability who were thinking of moving out of home. We knew that our initial audience would be people who were tech savvy,” Phil says.
The Holdsworth Trust donated $20,000 in seed funding to explore the idea of an online app with local digital technology company Optimation. Feedback was sought from people with intellectual disabilities and a parent of a teenager.
“It was teasing out what an online application would be and identify what some of the issues were for people who were looking to live independently,” Phil says.
“In the end we came up with the idea that we wanted something fun in the form of a game that would help people with money.”
A brief was written and IHC approached InGame, a gaming developer with a background in interactive training and educational games.
More money was needed to develop the game, and the timing was right. Post COVID-19, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) had funding available for initiatives to help people with disabilities stay active and connected in their communities. IHC received $75,000 from the fund.
“We were successful up to a point. We got about half of what we were asking for. Funding from MSD is going to enable us to get to the point of a working prototype, but not a published app. But it will have all of the elements of the game that will be expanded in the published version.”
It will also be something to show potential funders. IHC is now seeking a further $100,000 to finish the project and to make the app free to download.